Jamie Oliver refused to write off €15m loan in rescue deal

Seen&Heard: Chinese interest in Goodbody and Bord na Móna looks at cannabis growth

 Jamie Oliver’s restaurants  were rendered insolvent in Britain last week with the loss of 1,000 jobs. Photograph:  Paul Ellis

Jamie Oliver’s restaurants were rendered insolvent in Britain last week with the loss of 1,000 jobs. Photograph: Paul Ellis

 

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver refused to write off almost €15 million in loans to his restaurant chain as part of a proposal to rescue the business, which collapsed in Britain this week.

Oliver’s eateries, the Jamie’s Italian chain, Barbecoa and Fifteen London, were rendered insolvent in Britain last week with the loss of 1,000 jobs, although his Irish franchises were not hit and continue to trade.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the TV personality spurned a rescue offer from German turnaround specialist Aurelius that involved him writing off £13 million sterling (€14.7 million) in loans to the restaurant.

According to the paper, Oliver would have been required to commit himself to the brand in what insiders called a “partnership, not a sale”. Lender HSBC was prepared to write off its £37 million debt as part of the deal.

Oliver hired advisers BDO and Alix Partners this year to help find new cash for the business.

Goodbody bid

Chinese consortium JIC has reignited its interest in Irish stockbroker Goodbody, according to the Sunday Times.

JIC, owned by Chinese state investment company CIC, and financial firm Pioneer Century bid a reported €150 million for Goodbody last year but the deal collapsed following protracted talks with the Central Bank of Ireland.

Goodbody, majority-owned by Kerry financial services group Fexco, said last week that it had received a number of unsolicited bids for the business.

The Sunday Times quoted sources saying that JIC is now considering leading a second bid for the Irish stockbroker. It is understood that the earlier proposal fell through because the regulator was concerned that no party appeared to have a clear majority.

Insurance database

Government officials probed an insurance database at the centre of a European cartel investigation months before Brussels raided it, the Sunday Business Post said.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager is investigating whether companies seeking to enter the Irish motor insurance market are being unfairly denied access to a database called Insurance Link.

The Sunday Business Post reported that officials from the Government’s cost of insurance working group scrutinised the same database before Brussels began its probe, but did not flag any competition law fears when it reported in 2017. The working group met with Insurance Ireland and Verisk Analytics, which operates the database for the industry body.

Bog cannabis

State company Bord na Móna is considering growing medicinal cannabis on Irish bogs as it continues to seek a new direction for the group, which is phasing out peat harvesting, the Sunday Independent reported.

Bord na Móna is weighing investment in several new climate-friendly projects to replace its original activity. A spokesman told the Sunday Independent that the company was considering growing medicinal cannabis to see if it fits with a new business model.